Painkillers containing codeine will no longer be available over the counter from 2018, the federal drug regulator will announce today.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has ruled the risk of codeine addiction and overdose is too high.
“Consumers frequently became addicted to codeine,” a TGA statement said.
“Misuse of OTC [over-the-counter] codeine products contributes to severe health outcomes including liver damage, stomach ulceration, respiratory depression and death.”
Products containing codeine will remain available without prescription from pharmacies until February, 2018.
The TGA said the timeframe would allow consumers with chronic pain to discuss alternative treatments with their doctors.
It said patients could use alternative over-the-counter products such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, or cough and cold medicines that do not contain codeine.
The regulator said there was “little evidence” low-dose codeine medicines were “any more effective for pain relief or cough than similar medicines without codeine”.